Back-to-school shopping: More than pencils and glue sticks

Welcome, officially, to late August — a time of year synonymous with backpacks, freshly sharpened pencils and glue sticks.

That’s right, it’s back-to-school time, when routines return and lazy summer afternoons all too quickly fade.

If you’re parents of school-age children, by this time you most likely have made the Big Decision of where to send your kids to school. But for parents of younger children who haven’t yet navigated the diverse world of educational options, this week’s In Focus (Pages 9-12) is an excellent resource for you.

In it, OSV contributing editor Emily Stimpson puts together what I like to call a “school discernment package” — a four-page in-depth look at many factors that are helpful to consider when choosing the right path for your child.

She profiles three different families who made three different educational choices: One sent their kids to Catholic school, another to public school and a third decided to home-school. In each family snapshot, the parents explain the reasoning behind their choices and recount why and how they made the decisions that worked best for their families.

Editor's preview of this week's issue

In addition to these personal stories, Stimpson includes questions meant to encourage conversation and get the wheels (in your head, not on the bus) turning.

Also useful are five steps to consider when going through the process of discernment: pray, research, consider all options, consider the child and, perhaps most importantly, relax. As Stimpson writes, no decision is set in stone, and changes can always be made.

It is my sincere hope that this In Focus will assist you as you take this important next step with your children.

Finally, I’d like to turn it over to you veteran parents of school-aged children for your suggestions and comments.

How did you decide which educational path is best for your child? Do you have a set of questions you consider? Who do you turn to for the best information? What do you incorporate into your discernment process? And what have you learned during this process?

Email your comments to me at, and if we get a good group of them, I’ll include some in this space later this fall.

One last thing: Because it’s not only the little ones who are going back to school, but the big ones, too, we’ve included a special piece on how to stay pro-life during college (Page 6).

We all know that college can be a tumultuous time, where the values of even the most well-behaved (and well-raised) children can be challenged. I encourage you to read the article and show it to your son or daughter as he or she prepares to leave the nest. They might shrug it off, but then again, they might not.

God bless you and your families as you head back into the routines of another school year. May it be one that is happy, healthy and faith-filled.